Nature includes everything from the bugs flying in your face to the hot sun beating down on your neck. I'd learned this all too well during my time stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I'd spent about eight months in an Army Aviation unit back on Fort Huachuca, Arizona, so needless to say I wasn't in for what the Engineer Battalion in Missouri had waiting for me. When I'd boarded my flight on the crisp runway of Libby Army Airfield that cool October morning, my eyes were full of motivation and excitement for what Fort Leonard Wood had to offer me. I couldn't have been more wrong.
When my flight had finally landed, five minutes on the tarmac and I was already feeling the humidity quite well. Growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada, I wasn't used to this new weather at all. It wasn't long before I was met by a lingering cloud of mosquitoes and gnats to shadow me for the remainder of my stay. I could tell very quickly that this environment was not what I had expected, and that I had a lot more of Missouri waiting for me. I had arrived at 135th Engineer Battalion in Fort Leonard Wood and it was now day 2, and what a better way for me to get to know Missouri's bugs, heat, and humidity than to go on a 22 mile ruck march through the woods. If you're not familiar with what a Ruck March is, it's when a soldier fills his or her large metal framed backpack with an allotted amount of weight, then gets into full kit involving a 30lb ballistic vest including two solid ballistic plates, one 10lb helmet, an M4 Assault rifle, plenty of water, and let's not forget about our 60lb ruck sack. One will get acquainted with the bugs and the heat very quickly.
While the weather and nature at Fort Leonard Wood are atrocious, Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood was a very important man and soldier and was a very valuable commander in the Spanish War which is what led to the Army naming the fort after him. The Army chose the location of Fort Leonard Wood purely based on how awful the weather is to prepare the soldiers for WW2.